Because really, who wants to fly anywhere right now?
Ski trips are a rite of passage and part of the culture of being a skier. What’s not to love about exploring a new snow-covered zone on skis? This year, ski trips will look quite a bit different. You likely aren’t planning a powder-chasing trip to Japan in January or heading north to Canada for that hut trip you’d booked a year ago. (Remember a year ago? It feels like an eternity ago.)
You don’t have to go far to get the feel of a ski trip. An hour from your house, there might be a little ski area or a new backcountry zone you’ve never checked out before. This is the winter we discover our own backyards. To help get you thinking, we’ve got some ideas for off-the-radar ski areas worth checking out this winter, or another year down the road. Be sure to check state travel restrictions before you go and read up on the latest updates from the ski resort you’re planning to visit—many will require advance reservations or have capacity limits.
This road trip takes you to some of the finest ski hills in the southwest. From Denver, Colorado, it’s around a 5-hour drive to Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico, which has some of the steepest terrain you’ll find anywhere. When the Sangre de Cristo range gets snow, this is the place to be. This winter, Taos will be operating at a 50 percent capacity for crowds, so you’ll need to buy lift tickets well in advance to secure your spot on the mountain and Ikon Pass holders will need to make a reservation to use their days here. For a slight detour, it’s two hours south to hit up Ski Santa Fe, a low-key spot that’s known for its on-hill green chile and popular dawn patrol uphilling routes. (Note: Be sure to check New Mexico’s current state travel restrictions before you go, if you’re traveling from out of state.)
Next, hit up Wolf Creek Ski Area, four hours north just across the Colorado border. This place typically gets dumped on early season and it doesn’t see half the crowds of other Colorado ski areas. This winter, Wolf Creek plans to be open for skiing but will have all amenities (lodges, rentals, lessons) closed, and lift tickets will only be sold online ahead of time.
The West Coast
A drive along California’s Highway 395, along the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, is worth it just for the views of the peaks and the vast desert-like expanses. Even if you’re not a skier, you’ll enjoy the hot springs and desolation you can find out here. If you are a skier, even better. Head to June Mountain three hours from Tahoe or five hours from San Francisco, for a flashback to another era. You’ll find rolling groomers and a couple of steep shots off the top of the mountain, as well as stellar views overlooking the Sierra. Something you won’t find? Crowds.
Next, hit up the iconic steeps of Mammoth Mountain, which yes, sees a lot of people but also has 3,500 acres for everyone to spread out. Both Mammoth and June are on the Ikon Pass and both are not currently requiring reservations. Afterward, it’s a three-hour drive to the tiny ski area of Bear Valley. On a storm day, there’s plenty of powder in the trees here and not a soul around.